Debra Messing making out with a bellhop. Sarah Hyland proposing to Debby Ryan. Constance Wu tossing back a glass of champagne. When the doors chime open on the InStyle Instagram elevator, you see celebs playing an unusual role —themselves — often to humorous effect (see: Allison Janney going for a wedgie). Add the glow of warm beauty lighting and you have social media gold for InStyle, whose Instagram elevator has appeared at the past three installments of their long-running Golden Globes after-party. This year, the elevator brought on L’Oreal as a partner; racked up 91 million video views (compared to 19M views of the actual Globes); and grew the @instylemagazine following by nearly 60k followers in two days. InStyle’s Social Media Manager Macey Hall shares how a fake elevator brought the legacy brand to new heights.
Important question: what makes something an ~Instagram~ elevator and not a regular elevator?
To make something an ~Instagram~ moment, we first consider the set design. We work with a different designer each year and were lucky to have the incredible Ken Fulk design the space this year. People walked in and said “wow,” which is what we aim for — impactful and beautiful. The second thing that sets it apart from a regular elevator is that it’s not a real one! It sounds obvious, but most people who come in the room are so surprised to learn it’s not a functional elevator. The sides are open and the doors are on pulleys, which someone manually operates all night at the cue of director Douglas Friedman. Third, it’s not just a pretty set. There’s a huge crew behind the success of the elevator — a creative director, DP, grips, gaffers, assistants, editors, a social media team in two cities, and of course, a director.
What is your role leading up to Globes and what are you doing the night of?
InStyle’s Creative Director Brian Anstey and I partner on the elevator, but he deserves all the credit. He manages the pre-Globes load! He came up with the idea three years ago, and makes it come to life, managing each and every minor detail — he’s a genius. Leading up to the Globes Brian makes sure the design is finalized, the build is coming along, and works with our awesome events team to ensure the space is ready. Next DP Kassandra Baruch and her crew load in the day before and we have a pre-light. What’s great about working with the same team is that everyone knows their roles. The night of, my role is best described as traffic cop. I coordinate with Slate PR, who wrangles talent to do the booth, greet celebs in the room and explain what it is, hand them off to director Douglas Friedman, make sure things are moving along if there’s a long line, and remind talent when they leave about how they will be receiving their videos. Then, most importantly, I coordinate with the social team back in New York posting the videos to @instylemagazine.
Who’s responsible for brainstorming all the vignettes? How much happens in advance versus on the fly?
Brian, Douglas, and I brainstorm concepts in advance but many celebs come in with an idea! They say they’ve been thinking about what they can do for weeks. Douglas is incredible and comes up with at least half the moments on the fly and works with talent to make them great. He has amazing energy and gets celebs to do wild scenarios. We joked that this year it was a kissing booth — it’s all anyone wanted to do!
You accomplish the impossible, which is getting A-listers to not only participate but actually post images to their own feeds. What’s your secret?
First and foremost, everyone, celeb or not, wants to look great. And the elevator is lit beautifully, which makes everyone look gorgeous, which helps tremendously in getting people to share. We also tell them multiple times about sharing. The last thing we say before they leave the room is “someone will come AirDrop it to you, so you can share!” The videos are edited within 15 minutes of being filmed, and we find them all and AirDrop them the file, which they tell us they’ve been waiting for! Luckily most people are excited to share.
Any horror stories of malfunctioning elevators?
Of course! Last year the doors broke mid-party and Brian fixed them immediately. And last year the Bellhop’s suit didn’t fit, requiring some rush tailoring. This year the doors malfunctioned briefly, but thankfully the carpenters were still around.
Your elevator vids get the seal of approval from celebs, press pickup, and a second life on other platforms. Is there a metric that’s most important to measuring the activation’s overall success?
Our most important metric is views. Between the celeb shares, stylists, brands, and fan accounts, it’s laborious to track them all, but so important. We compare the numbers next day, two, four, seven, and 30 days post, and do one final tally right before the next year’s Globes.
How did bringing on L’Oréal as a sponsor shape the creative?
Having L’Oreal sponsor the elevator offered a good challenge: how to create a storyline that was advantageous to the client while still staying with the editorial spirit of the activation. It’s great to have a partner who gets our vision!
Some social media editors get scared about overposting, but during the Globes you posted three times as much as you normally do. (You also doubled your normal interaction rate and gained 56k followers, so it paid off!) What is your thought process in planning for an IG onslaught?
We don’t worry about over posting at all. We know the audience is hungry for elevator content, so we drop the best ones as soon as they’re ready, regardless of if we posted one 30 seconds before. Some might argue it’s against best practice, but it’s what has worked for us the past three years. Unfortunately, we’re not able to post all the videos to @instylemagazine, but they all go to talent, and hopefully they’ll share on their feeds. We love seeing the fans begging us in the comments to post certain videos, and shared Sabrina Carpenter and Lana Condor after a million requests.
Any favorite videos?
The Black Panther love triangle featuring Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Michael B. Jordan was amazing and most people’s favorite, but mine was Machine Gun Kelly and Pete Davidson smoking a joint! They rolled up to the room and knew exactly what they wanted to do, and had fun with it. Someone commented on our post, “First of all @machinegunkelly you just gonna disappear in Birdbox with that girl and never come back next thing we know you’re in an elevator” and I’m still laughing about it.
The InStyle elevator is only getting more popular. Any plans to bring it to life beyond the Globes?
We do Instagram activations at Toronto International Film Festival and our InStyle Awards, and toyed with the idea of having it there, but decided it’s best kept as a novelty, something we only do at the Globes. With so many activations out there, we’ve managed to create something that is uniquely InStyle, so it’s always best to keep them wanting more.